Gamifying Professional Learning


Madeline R. Shellgren (she/her/hers), Director of Community Strategy and Engagement, Online Learning Consortium, Samantha Becker, Online Learning Consortium Storyteller


| No Comments | | Leave a comment

Tap into your inner competitor, have fun, and embrace play.

One of the first things that genuinely comes to mind when I think about OLC conferences is the word fun. I always smile when I share this because it brings back tons of great memories from past conferences. Just now, for instance, I couldn’t help but recall one of our Board Members racing through the halls in his attempt to beat another team of conference attendees during one of our evening events (in this case a playful spin on a relay race). Reflecting back, fun would not have been a word I used to describe my experiences with other conferences. Sure, the people were fun and I ended up having fun moments, but the conference design itself wasn’t what brought those elements…the people did.

The OLC changed this trajectory for me though and truly what I understood a conference to be…and I’ve never gone back. In my early days serving on the engagement volunteer team for the OLC I learned that conference programming itself could be fun, as could the structure and format of a conference. And why shouldn’t it be? Apart from being memorable, we know that gameful approaches to education can lead to impactful learning experiences when leveraged effectively and conference spaces should be no different.

As a designer now working in this space and someone fortunate enough to work with our current team of engagement volunteers, we follow this tradition of bringing fun into our professional learning spaces through events like our upcoming OLC Accelerate Conference. 

A core part of this work was the onset of this year’s engagement pathways, which playfully story the various personas we tend to see at our conferences – including The Competitor.

Whether you’re planning on attending or just reading for ideas, here are 7 gameful experiences you won’t want to miss:

  1. OLC Accelerate GooseChase Mission — Leveling up from our popular Mission Passport, we’ve partnered with GooseChase to gamify our conference experience. Custom missions, cool prizes, and insight into a new educational tool…what’s not to love?
  2. Engagement Block Party Inspired by local, neighborhood-based block parties, we bring you lawn games (yes, you read that correctly), cool educational technologies, an entertaining variety show, and more…all with music and lunch.
  3. OLC Design Sprints Arguably now a classic of our virtual programming, OLC’s Design Sprints provide a lighthearted way to learn about design thinking while meeting new people.
  4. Exposition Foundry Challenge: Improvisational Design Improvisation is a great way to practice agile design and collaborative approaches to learning. We lean on this through this year’s Exposition Foundry Challenge, as we invite conference attendees and sponsors to join together for a chance to win a prize.
  5. OLC Escape Room Series — This year we bring our conference attendees a series of educational escape room experiences! For those looking for a deep dive into what it takes to design an educational escape room (and for unique strategies and tools), the Master Class session “Build Your Own Escape Room: Theoretical Foundations, Models, And Practical Design Tips” is a must on your “don’t miss” list. Our fully virtual and onsite escape room experiences also make for fun ways to begin to explore this pedagogical approach and meet some cool people along the way.
  6. Engagement Boulevard From playful uses of educational technologies to intentional opportunities to network, the Engagement Boulevard will serve as a key engagement hub and thoroughfare space (running directly through the center of the Exhibit Hall.
  7. OLC Evening Events — Creating opportunities to close out the day that nevertheless extend networking and community building spaces has been core to our model for evening events. This year we’ve designed a series both virtually (e.g. “Turn Your Bats And Beasties Into Beautiful Besties”) and onsite (e.g. “I’ve Got a Ticket to Ride”).

Not able to join us this Fall? Use this gameful line-up as inspiration for your next event or class!

Leave a Reply